A flood of insurance

Posted by at 10:28 am

Following the record damages from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, insurers are sounding the alarm bells – development across the country has turned many areas into potential flood zones.   It’s not entirely surprising. While areas like Coastal Florida require all homeowners to have flood insurance because of the high risk, most U.S. homeowners don’t live in areas prone to heavy flooding – or so they thought. Residential development eats up absorbent grasslands in and around cities, and also leads to the addition of more non-porous structures like roads and foundations, which can block the natural flow of stormwater runoff. Unless you live on a hilltop, insurers recommend at least some flood insurance. Administered by the federal National Flood Insurance Program and available through many insurances agencies, a flood policy costs about $500 a year for $250,000 of coverage. For a lot of families, an extra $500...
Read more

Don’t let clogged drains stop you

Posted by at 4:25 pm

Many homeowners just assume they cannot do any sort of plumbing on their own. The term “plumbing” can be somewhat intimidating – but it literally means moving water from place to place. Clogged drains, then, are plumbing’s natural enemy. Stuck drains, like most plumbing problems, can be prevented through proper use and regular maintenance. Don’t let clogged drains stop you. Hard water – water with high mineral content – can leave deposits to clog pipes over time. Consider installing a traditional sulfur softener. These units require cutting the pipe, so it’s probably best to hire a professional plumber for this one. It will avoid a lot more visits from a pro in the future. You can also install a do-it-yourself unit that breaks up deposits from outside the pipe with electronic pulses, but will need a nearby outlet or a...
Read more

Plan for a smooth move

Posted by at 2:30 pm

You’ve signed the closing docs, and the deal is done. Now it’s time for the big move. With or without movers, pacing and planning are the keys to a safe and successful transition. It begins What about the days before the move? You might want to consider deep cleaning the new house. The walls, floors, counters and baseboards will never be this exposed again. Run a load or two through the dishwasher and washing machine. Dust high sills and don’t forget the refrigerator. A bug bomb is a good idea. Even if you can’t see them, they might be there. You can accomplish this only one time and still have time to clear any noxious fumes before children or pets show up. Plan ahead If you always have a “moving plan” in the back of your mind, it can lessen the...
Read more
June 15th, 2017

Universal appeal

Posted by at 1:16 pm

Everyone likes the idea of building a home exactly to specifications – often without thinking of the future – and future buyers. Here’s the news. The house is probably going to outlast you. And most people don’t end up living in the same home forever. Unless you pan to retire (and die) in your current home, a universal approach to remodels and maintenance makes good fiscal sense. The old concept of universal design was synonymous with “senior accessible” or “handicapped friendly.” And it is all of that. But it can be so much more. It’s about thinking ahead, considering angles. Seeing problems with access and usage before they happen. How many folks do you know who moved into homes without taking time to consider clearances, heights and angles? Big plans for furnishings, add-ons and creature comforts can be spoiled by narrow doorways or...
Read more

Self-Managed Homeowners Associations

Posted by at 2:32 pm

With the skyrocketing price of homes today, many homeowner association neighborhoods are looking to save where they can. Some have found they can maintain desired aesthetic standards at a lower cost with self-management, where neighbors agree to share administrative duties instead of paying a professional management company. This can mean a huge savings for the growing number of HOA communities. HOAs maintain standards for landscaping and cleaning of common areas, and enforce rules for upkeep on the membership’s homes. HOAs often protect property values by not allowing neighborhood problems to fester. Majority Rules Some self-managed HOAs are governed strictly by the majority rule. In America, the one-voice, one-vote concept is quite popular, especially considering some recent election results! In such “pure” democracies, community spirit is often enhanced. In an increasingly stratified society where folks often just stay in their own homes...
Read more

A gift horse: The home seller’s curse

Posted by at 4:32 pm

So, you put your home up for sale, with a listing price based on local comparables. As luck would have it, a buyer comes along within days – maybe even hours – and meets that price. Heck, maybe they even throw in an extra 2 or 3 percent for good measure. This is probably one of those times referred to in the phrase: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” But sometimes, when everything goes right, we have trouble accepting it. It’s a curse The “curse of the first offer” is well-known to real estate agents who have been around for a while. The seller’s reaction to an early offer? Almost inevitable: “Maybe we should wait and see if we can get more.” Today’s seller is probably right about one thing: There will be other offers. In marketplaces around...
Read more

Homeownership: A savings lifeline

Posted by at 12:30 pm

With home prices rising to all-time highs, many potential buyers may imagine drowning in a sea of monthly payments stretching across many years. Naysayers bob to the surface with harrowing tales of home-buying gone wrong. If the down payment doesn’t get you – well the property taxes, maintenance and insurance surely will! These so-called “savvy” investors say renters who dutifully put all money not spent on housing into stable investments – like mutual funds – may get a greater rate of return. Criticism of homeownership as an instrument of wealth-building has understandably become louder in the last decade, after a Housing Bust that put more than 10 million homeowners upside-down, and 4 million more into foreclosure. Though most underwater homeowners have swum back into positive equity, and many of those foreclosures are mortgage-eligible again, the math geeks remain in a...
Read more

Unmarried couples sign cohabitation agreements

Posted by at 2:36 pm

Many couples aren’t waiting for the bonds of matrimony before entering another partnership with similar monumental responsibilities – buying a home. According to research from real estate website Zillow, 15 percent of unmarried couples between the ages of 24 and 35 are making the move to purchase a home together, up from 11 percent in 2005. Generally armed with lots of debt, but two solid incomes, the idea is to get into the housing market as soon as possible. To be sure, co-ownership can soften the financial blow. But a whole new set of problems can arise when and if couples break up. Many do. One or both parties will still be liable for the monthly mortgage payments. Unlike marriage and divorce, there is no legal process for dividing shared assets. A solution is the “cohabitation agreement,” which like a marriage “pre-nup,” protects a person’s...
Read more

Know your fire insurance

Posted by at 3:58 pm

Despite constant public education, accidents – preventable or not – will happen. And thousands of American homeowners will eventually make claims on their home insurance. While claims related to weather are the most frequent, it’s home fires that do the most damage. “Partial losses,” where the home is not destroyed, are common. Damages can be difficult to assess. Make you know your policy well, and know how to handle a claim. Call the insurance company right away, and make an appointment for their investigator/adjuster to visit as soon as possible. The adjuster is legally bound to assess any “hidden damages,” including smoke, ash and air quality. If the fire required action by fire fighters, make sure foam and water damage is assessed, as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you don’t understand. Terms like “recoverable depreciation,” or...
Read more

New construction constructs

Posted by at 10:53 am

Existing homes are a great way to add your own chapter to an ongoing story, but new construction is a way to start your own book. Whether custom-designed or built on spec in a new subdivision, you won’t have to worry about dealing with the emotional baggage of a former owner. And as the first person to live in a house, you can generally count on a lot of nice amenities – new, energy-saving appliances, efficient plumbing, lots of closet space and modern design. You don’t have to smell anyone’s old smells, see what kids scrawled on the baseboards or find any “treasures” under the house from long ago. You just have to deal with the builder. So be aware that most new home sales operations function a lot like car lots. The onsite salespeople are looking out for the...
Read more